LINGUIST List 5.474

Fri 22 Apr 1994

Disc: Accents

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Deborah Milam Berkley, Re: 5.457 Accents
  2. "Leslie Z. Morgan", Re: 5.457 Accents
  3. Evan S. Smith, Accents
  4. , southern accents and film
  5. , accents
  6. Pete Schult, Re: 5.457 Accents

Message 1: Re: 5.457 Accents

Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 07:34:24 Re: 5.457 Accents
From: Deborah Milam Berkley <>
Subject: Re: 5.457 Accents

In the discussion of American actors failing to get a British accent right,
Cathryn Williams writes:

> Is the inverse true of British actors immitating American accents?

In most of the British television shows I see on PBS here in the US, it
seems to me that British actors only do a passable job of imitating an
American accent. Many of them seem to try to drawl--perhaps all Americans
sound that way to non-Americans?

One notable counterexample is Kenneth Branagh in "Dead Again." I was
amazed at how well he did the American accent.

Deborah Milam Berkley
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Message 2: Re: 5.457 Accents

Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 11:27:44 Re: 5.457 Accents
From: "Leslie Z. Morgan" <MORGANLOYOLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 5.457 Accents

For some very specific examples of different accents in practice,
the film, "American Accents" and its follow-up (the title of which
I forget) about New Orleans gives excellent parallels for both
class and location. If you are interested in more info, our
A-V center has them and you can telnet in to LNDLIB to look.

Leslie Morgan
Loyola College in Md.
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Message 3: Accents

Date: Wed, 20 Apr 94 08:39:33 CDAccents
From: Evan S. Smith <>
Subject: Accents

Text item: Text_1

 It is often said that English actors can "do a Southern accent" better
 than some. The late English actor Laurence Harvey sometimes did a
 "Southern accent" in several movies, incl. WALK ON THE WILD SIDE. In
 THE ALAMO, filmed over a long period of time with many rewritings and
 continuity problems, he shifted in and out of his own accent. In a
 film about the making of the movie, he recites Shakespeare in a hammy
 "Southern accent" unlike anything he uses in the movie itself.

 Evan Smith
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Message 4: southern accents and film

Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 09:38:56 southern accents and film
Subject: southern accents and film

I would like to add a few comments about Southern speech. I have lived all
my life with an accent derived from my parents who grew up in Charleston, S. C.
and were educated there and (in college) in New England. To almost anyone who
meets my parents, thir accent appears to be British. (I
ink it is the
dropped post-vocalic preconsonantal /r/s. All of us children, growing up in
N. C., and being asked routinely, when we had arrived from England, found this
quite irritating. No doubt this is due to our misassignment to a group by the
listener, even though that group is not particularly objectionable (compared
to most white Southerners as protrayed in Easy Rider, say)
 My parents can
so speak, or could in their youth, Gullah, at least enough
to be unintelligible to a non-low-country ear.Gullah speech was appropriate for
them in certain environments for entertainment; singing songs and telling
stories, all humorous and stylized, and occasionally for household interaction
of an informal type. It is not correct to think of Gullah as an African
non. People who lived on the Sea Islands, regardless of color
spoke Gullah if they were of the right social and educational background.
Others in the area spoke Gullah, because so many other people did too. It seems
impossible for this kind of diaglossia to have occurred among the more educated
without their"higher" register being affected.
 Apropos of Gullah in films, the only attempt I am aware of is "Daughters of
 the Dust," which actually boasted subtitles for the first few minutes. All
the people I know who saw the film and are familiar with Gullah speech found
the accents of all but one of the actors terrificly bad attempts. We found out
later that all the actors were from New York and Jamaica, except one old woman
from Ga., who had the only convincing accent in the bunch. My family and I
wer3e a little offended by this treatment, as, despite being white, we regard
the Gullah songs and stories and words as part of our culture, and seeing an
inaccurate presentation of them was somewhat irritating, though gratifying for
its very existence.
 I would be interested in hearing others' reaction to the accents portrayed
in the film.
Adger Williams
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Message 5: accents

Date: Wed, 20 Apr 94 17:28:33 +0accents
From: <>
Subject: accents

I can't say I'm particularly surprised at a London accent being mistaken for an
Australian one: I'd thought it a relatively common occurrence, though hope I
wouldn't do it myself.

There would appear to be some credence to be attached to the idea that generic
Strine developed from the essentially London brand of English taken over by the
criminals deported in the last century. As a mere Midland Pom it would not do
for me to make sociological and/or sociolinguistic remarks about provenance, nor
to make any reference to the cracks about where there is more criminality -
Australia as the recipient of the ones that got caught, or London as either the
place where the good ones weren't caught, or where they were not quick enough
 topick up on the chance of a free passage to the land of the amber nectar, so I
won't, but there is surely quite a strong phonological resemblance at a
 distance- with due respect to Bob Hoskins and Sir Les Patterson.

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Message 6: Re: 5.457 Accents

Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 14:42:27 Re: 5.457 Accents
From: Pete Schult <>
Subject: Re: 5.457 Accents

Cathryn Williams asks if there are any credible imitations of a
British North American accent by United Kingdomian actors. I am reminded
of two. In _The Meaning of Life_, one of the sketches takes place in a
restaurant in which John Cleese does a decent Texas accent (I'm not a
native Texan, but I was living in Austin when I first saw the film, and
his accent was not all that far from that of a native friend).

The second is also from Monty Python. In the _Flying Circus_ episode in
which Eric Idle is looking for the master spy Teddy Salad, his British
origins are betrayed only by his pronunciation of 'ballet' as BAL-let
rather than bal-LET.

Of course, Terry Gilliam had the best North American English accent of
any of the Pythons. ;-)

Pete Schult
University of Minnesota
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